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Paper 7: Notation

Aims and objectives 

To introduce students to the notation of polyphonic music in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, to the theory by which it is underpinned, and to the techniques of editing and source studies. 

Description of the course 

While the 14th century is a period of experimentation and rapid development in musical notation, the 15th and 16th centuries see the emergence of something like a consensus and can be regarded as a period of relative stability in notational practice. For approximately half the course, students will focus on the transcription and editing of repertoire from this later period (using sources such as the Alamire MSs and the "Burgundian" chansonniers): this will provide students with a practical skill which can be applied to repertoire from throughout the 16th and early 17th centuries, and introduce them to the issues and challenges facing editors of Renaissance music. 

The other element in the course will be a history of notational practice from Franco of Cologne to the mid-15th century, tracing the evolution of Ars Nova (and, to an extent, Trecento) notation and relating it to changing compositional styles. Necessarily more discursive in character, this part of the course will nevertheless provide an important historical/theoretical context for students' practical exercises in transcription and widen further their perspectives on the multifarious functions of musical notation. 

The two sections of the course will not be taught consecutively. Rather, the plan will be to begin and end with the transcription/editing element, with the historical survey coming in the middle. The course will be taught in twelve one-hour lectures.

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